Apocrypha: The Treatise on the Resurrection
The Treatise on the Resurrection
Translated by Willis Barnstone
This original translation of The Treatise on the Resurrection (Nag Hammadi Codex I, 4) is presented in the Gnostic Society Library by permission and under license from Dr. Willis Barnstone, who retains all copyright. Dr. Barnstone’s translations of the Nag Hammadi texts are published in The Gnostic Bible, © 2003, Willis Barnstone & Marvin Meyer.
Headings in bold type have been added to the text for clarity by the translator.
The Treatise on Resurrection
My son Rheginos, some people want to become learned. That is their purpose when they begin to solve unsolved problems. If they succeed, they are proud. But I do not think they have stood in the word of truth. Rather, they seek their own rest, which we have received from our saviour and our lord, the Christ. We received rest when we came to know the truth and rested on it.
Since your pleasant question concerns what is the truth about the resurrection, I am writing you today to tell you. Many do not believe in it, but a few find it. So let us see.
How God Became a Human Son
How did the lord proclaim things while he was in flesh and after he had revealed himself to be the son of god? He lived in this world that you live in, speaking about the law of nature, which I call death. And more, Rheginos, the son of god became a human son. He embraced both qualities, possessing humanity and divinity so he could, by being the son of god, conquer death, and, by being the human son, restore the pleroma. At the beginning he was above as a seed of truth, which was before the cosmos came into being. In the cosmic structure many dominions and divinities have come into being.
Truth as the Agent
I know that I am presenting the problem in difficult words, but there is nothing in the word of truth that is difficult. After the solution appeared, to ensure that nothing be hidden and everything be openly revealed, there are two essentials: the destruction of evil and the revelation of the elect. This solution entails the emanation of truth and spirit, and of grace bestowed by truth.
The Saviour Swallowed Death
The saviour swallowed death. You must know this. He laid aside the perishable world and made himself into an imperishable aeon, raised himself up, and swallowed the visible with the invisible. Thereby he gave us our immortality. Then, as the messenger Paul said of him, “We suffered with him, we rose with him, and we entered heaven with him.” Now, since we are seen in this world, we wear it like a garment. From the saviour we radiate beams, and we are held in his arms until our own sunset, our death in this life. We are drawn to heaven by him, like beams, by the sun, and nothing holds us down. This is the resurrection of the spirit, which swallows up the soul and the flesh.
With Faith Rise
If you cannot believe, you cannot be persuaded. My son, these matters belong to the domain of faith, and not to persuasive argument, in asserting that the dead will rise. Among the philosophers in the world there may be one who believes. Certainly that philosopher will rise. And let that philosopher here on earth not believe that he is returning to the self by himself, and because of faith. We have known the human son, and we believe that he rose from among the dead. We say of him, “He is the destroyer of death.”
The goal as well as its believers is great. And the thinking mind of believers will not disappear, nor will the mind of those who know. We are chosen for salvation and redemption, since from the beginning we were predestined not to fall into the folly of the ignorant. We shall enter into the wisdom of those who have known the truth. Those who have wakened to the truth cannot abandon it. The system of the pleroma is strong. A small part of it is what broke loose to make up the world. What encompasses everything, the realm of all, did not come into being. It was. So never doubt the resurrection, my son Rheginos.
Fate of the Flesh and of the Spirit
If you did not exist in flesh, you took on flesh when you entered the world. Why is it, then, that you will you not take your flesh with you when you rise into the aeon? What is better than flesh is what animates. What came into being because of you, is it not yours? Doesn’t it exist with you? But while you are in the world, what are you missing? That is precisely what you have attempted to learn.
After the birth of the body comes old age, and you exist in corruption. But what you lack is a gain. You will not give up the better part when you leave. The inferior part suffers, but it finds grace. Nothing redeems us from this world, but we are members of the realm of all and are saved. We have received salvation from start to finish. Let us think in this way, let us comprehend in this way.
What is the Resurrection?
Some ask whether one will be saved immediately, if the body is left behind. Let no one doubt. The visible parts of the body that are dead will not be saved. Only the living parts that exist inside will rise. What is the resurrection? It is the revelation of those who have risen. If you remember reading in the gospel that Elijah appeared and Moses with him, do not suppose that the resurrection is an illusion. It is no illusion. It is truth. It is more proper to say that the world is illusion, rather than the resurrection that is because of our lord the saviour, Jesus the Christ.
The Truth of Resurrection
What am I telling you now? The living will die.
How do they live in illusion?
The rich become poor and kings are overthrown.
All changes. The world is an illusion.
Why do I seem to shout?
The resurrection has nothing of this character.
It is truth standing firm. It is revelation of what is,
and the transformation of things,
and a transition into freshness.
Incorruptibility floods over corruption.
Light rivers down upon the darkness, swallowing obscurity.
The pleroma fills the hollow.
These are the symbols and images of resurrection.
They establish its goodness.
Resurrection is Here
O Rheginos, do not lose yourself in details, nor live obeying the flesh for the sake of harmony. Flee from being scattered and being in bondage, and then you already have resurrection. If you know what in yourself will die, though you have lived many years, why not look at yourself and see yourself risen now? You have the resurrection, yet you go on as if you are to die when it is only the part destined to die that is moribund. Why do I put up with your poor training? Everyone finds a way, and there are many ways, to be released from this element and not to roam aimlessly in error, all with the end of recovering what one was at the beginning.
These words I have received from the generosity of my lord, Jesus the Christ. I have taught you and your brothers and sisters, who are my children, about them, and have omitted nothing that may strengthen you. If there is anything among these written words that is obscure, ask and I will explain.
Do not be worried about consulting anyone in your circle who can help. Many await what I have written to you. I say peace and grace be among them.
I greet you and whoever loves you with the love of family.